A former Chinese diplomat has labelled Australia’s TikTok ban on government devices “racism”, telling the Government: “You do not want to have an enemy with 1.4 billion people.”
In an interview with 60 Minutes, former diplomat and CCP mouthpiece Victor Gao said of the ban: “Probably it’s racism, probably it’s racial discrimination, probably it’s banning Chinese again, which was a disaster many years ago.
“Now you want to do that again? It will not be a success.”
The Australian Government banned the Chinese-owned social media platform from all government devices, citing fears over security. It follows similar bans in many other countries around the world.
“This has been informed by security agencies’ advice on work that’s been done and provided to the government, so that’s the decision we’ve taken is around government-issued devices,” Finance Minister Katy Gallagher said earlier this month.
Concerns over the scope of personal information that TikTok harvests and its parent company ByteDance’s apparent links to the communist regime has led governments around the world to believe that China could be weaponising the social media app to spy on their citizens.
Cybersecurity expert Robert Potter previously told 60 Minutes that the app collects a lot more data than other social media sites.
“It can collect your keystroke patterns, body language, face and body features. It can access photos or passwords that are stored in your phone over time,” he said.
“There’s a super location field that allows them to collect which direction you’re facing, how fast you’re moving, how high off the ground you are, your latitude and longitude.”
However Mr Gao said Australia shouldn’t feel threatened by the app.
“Australians need to be really confident about their own system, rather than being threatened by TikTok. Banning it is not a sign of strength. It’s not a sign of superiority, it’s not a sign of confidence. It’s just the opposite,” he said.
He also said the ban could cause further tensions in Australia’s already strained relationship with China.
“I would urge the Australian Government to really treat China as an equal, because you do not want to have an enemy with 1.4 billion people,” he said.
Meanwhile, TikTok Australia and New Zealand general manager Lee Hunter insists the ban is politically motivated, saying there was “no evidence” to support that people’s data was at risk.
He also told 60 Minutes TikTok Australia will not hand over personal information to the CCP.
“We need to be careful about how we work with China, but at the end of the day TikTok is not China. We’re an entertainment platform. We’re about giving people interesting videos in their day,” he said.
All the countries that have total or partial bans on TikTok:
Australia isn’t alone in its ban of TikTok from government devices. Many countries around the world have taken similar measures.
Australia: TikTok banned from all federal government-owned devices.
New Zealand: On March 17, New Zealand announced TikTok would be banned from the phones of government politicians at the end of the month. But it only applies to about 500 people in the parliamentary complex.
Estonia: At the end of March, Estonia’s outgoing minister of IT and foreign trade, Kristjan Järvan, said TikTok would be banned from smartphones issued by the state to public officials.
UK: On March 16, an immediate ban was announced of the app on government official devices.
EU governing bodies: The European Parliament, European Commission, and the EU Council have all banned TikTok on staff devices, citing cybersecurity concerns.
France: On March 24, the French government banned the installation and use of “recreational” applications such as TikTok, Netflix and Instagram on the work phones of 2.5 million civil servants.
Netherlands: The government discourages the use of all apps from “countries with an aggressive cyber-program” on phones distributed by the government. TikTok wasn’t mentioned by name.
Norway: On March 23, the Norwegian parliament banned TikTok from devices issued to government employees.
Belgium: On March 10, Belgium announced it was banning TikTok from devices owned or paid for by Belgium’s federal government for at least six months.
Denmark: On March 6, Denmark’s Defence Ministry announced it would “ban the use of the app on official units” as a cybersecurity measure.
USA: Government agencies were given until the end of March to delete TikTok from federal devices and systems. However some US politicians have been advocating an outright ban. However, a bid to ban TikTok from operating in the United States altogether was blocked in the senate on March 30. Now, though, Montana has passed a bill to ban TikTok outright from the state. If signed into law, it could come into effect from January 2024.
Canada: The country announced on February 28 it was banning TikTok from all government-issued devices.
India: In 2020, India imposed a ban on TikTok and some other Chinese apps, shortly after a clash between Indian and Chinese troops at a disputed Himalayan border.
Taiwan: In December 2022, Taiwan imposed a TikTok ban on all government devices.
Pakistan: Pakistani authorities have temporarily banned TikTok at least four times since October 2020, citing concerns that the app promotes immoral content.
Afghanistan: Taliban leaders banned TikTok in 2022 on the grounds of protecting youths from “being misled”.